I am looking at a man I don’t recognize. He’s looking back at me.
I have few childhood memories of my father.
In one, we are dancing together in our tiny apartment in Moscow. In another, he is
leaving. My father would disappear for months at a time. Then, unexpectedly, he would come home.
What he didn’t expect was what happened next.
At seven years old, I was taken away from him, far away. It was October 1996. The
Soviet Union had long collapsed, and by then so had my family. We had become
desperate overnight: avoiding landlords and collecting bottles in exchange for food. One morning, my mom woke me and my brother to say we were going on a trip.
We never said goodbye to my father. The next day, we arrived in our new home in
southern California. We had spent years watching the American soap opera, Santa
Barbara. And now we were there.
For my mom, the solution to forget him was simple. She cut his image out of every
photograph in our family album. But those holes made it harder for me to forget him. I would stare at airplanes flying over in the blue Californian sky, waiting for him to come and find me.
He never did.
Fifteen years later, I’ve traveled halfway around the world to stand at the courtyard of the same gray, decaying Soviet building I remember as a child.
And this is where our story begins.
This is a visual diary of my journey to reconnect with the man who should have been my father.